Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Bonaparte, Charles Lucien Jules Laurent (France-Italy 1803-1857)
ornithology, systematics


Though he was never entirely able to divorce himself from his family's association with politics, Charles Lucien "Prince" Bonaparte lived a life in good part devoted to science. He was in fact quite an excellent zoologist, giving the majority of his attention over to the birds. Bonaparte first made his name in this direction by completing Wilson's American Ornithology after the latter's death, but while involved in that project he began to question many of Cuvier's conclusions regarding the systematic position of many other vertebrate groups. Using a wider range of criteria (including physiological and developmental traits), he suggested revisions in the placement of many major groups of all five vertebrate classes; many of these were adopted. His classifications also took into account zoogeographic data, and in turn his various lists, catalogs and conspectuses served to bring greater attention to the relations between geography and habit. His crowning achievement, the Conspectus generum avium, ended up the prized traveling companion of many a mid-nineteenth century field naturalist (Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, remarked on its great usefulness).

Life Chronology

--born in Paris, France, on 24 May 1803.
--1804: his father (Lucien, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) moves the family to Italy
--1814: made Prince of Musignano by the Pope
--1823: comes to the United States and takes up residence near Philadelphia
--1825-1833: engaged in completing Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology
--1826: returns to Europe to investigate museum collections
--1828: briefly re-visits the U. S.
--1828: settles in Rome
--1831: publishes his completion of Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology; Or the Natural History of the Birds of the United States, in four volumes
--1838: publishes his A Geographical and Comparative List of the Birds of Europe and North America
--1843: elected to the Academy of Sciences in Berlin
--1844: made a corresponding member of the Académie des Sciences de Paris
--1848: takes part in the Roman pro-nationalist movement
--1849: exiled from Italy
--1850: settles in Paris and returns to scientific work
--1850-1857: publishes his Conspectus generum avium, in two volumes
--1854: made director of the Jardin des Plantes
--dies at Paris, France, on 29 July 1857.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 2 (1970).
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--The Emperor of Nature: Charles Lucien Bonaparte and His World (2000).
--Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 122(4) (1978): 198-203.

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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